Today’s post is going to be a bit more personal. It’s one I started writing when I first created this blog but has sat in my drafts for months. It is one I was too afraid to write about for so long because I was nervous that whoever read it would judge me. I’m not exactly sure why I suddenly want to post it, I just know that the right words finally came to me. So, here we go. This is the story of my battle with anxiety and how I over came it. Be prepared for a long post.
It all started around my freshman year of high school. I was in a new school, I had no friends from middle school in any of my classes and I was a nervous wreck. I missed my middle school life where every teacher knew and loved me and I thought I was pretty much friends with everyone. I had made a few friends but none that I hung out with after school or talked to on the weekends. We were school friends and as my best friends from eighth grade were all making new best friends, I was kind of alone (at least that’s how I felt).
During Christmas vacation something very tragic happened to me. My father was hospitalized, he’s a diabetic and was found unconscious with a blood sugar of 2000. My mom got a call and had him med-flighted over to Beth Israel Hospital in Boston (a hospital I will be forever grateful for). We decided to go see him in the morning because it was kind of late at night. Anyway, at 3:00am my mom got a call from the doctor saying we had to go to the hospital now, my dad’s oxygen levels were extremely low. They said we had to go say our goodbyes because he wasn’t going to make it. The whole ride there all I could think about was how I was never going to see my dad again. It was the worst experience of my life. Luckily, miraculously, he survived. His oxygen levels came back to normal and every hour he was getting better. I still thank God every single day. This traumatic experience scarred me for life.
After that, I was a little bit more nervous but I didn’t have my first panic attack until that summer. I was out with a few friends and we were walking over a bridge to Target. I was so nervous because cars were zooming past us and I was already uncomfortable with bridges to begin with. I remember texting my mom to pick me up as soon as I got to Target, going home and crying my eyes out. I had never felt that way before and I never wanted to again. Just writing about it is making my stomach hurt (one of my panic attack symptoms).
Sophomore year it got worse. I felt the need to accompany my mom everywhere she went. I thought that if I wasn’t with her, something horrible would happen to her. Even if she ran to get milk at the store I HAD to go. If I didn’t I would have a panic attack. One night, my mom and stepdad were out doing something for our theater company and it was getting late. I called both of them and they didn’t answer or text me back for 30 minutes (understandable now, they were in a meeting) but the only thoughts running through my mind were that they got into a car accident and they wouldn’t be there to see me graduate or get married or just there so I could tell them I loved them one more time. It was horrible. I was a mess because of it. I couldn’t stay home alone anymore.
Now this part is a little embarrassing but needs to be shared just so you can understand how horrible it really was. Like I mentioned above, I needed to be with my mom 24/7. Well, it got so bad that if my mom didn’t sleep in my room with me I would have a panic attack IN MY SLEEP and wake up a complete mess. I was anxious all of the time and had no idea what to do because I didn’t want to believe anything was wrong with me.
Finally, it got so bad that I was missing some school because I couldn’t be away from my mom. I was so nervous that something would happen to her that I couldn’t bare leaving. My mom decided it was time I saw a therapist and I refused. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I had dealt with them when I was younger after my parents got divorced and hated the lady I talked to. But I went anyway because I’m a good kid and listened to my mom (ha ha).
The first lady I saw did nothing for me. I hated going to talk to her, I felt like I couldn’t talk to her. My mom then took me to a therapist at the health clinic at my school. She was great, her name was Maria and I felt comfortable with her. She reminded me of a teacher I had in middle school who I adored and I could actually talk to her. It was tough though because I had to go to her during my studies and I was so embarrassed that a friend or a teacher would see me and judge me. I didn’t want anyone to know what I was going through. I didn’t want to be made fun of.
It took months but finally she helped me pinpoint what was the underlying cause of all of my anxiety…Remember the story I told you about my dad? Well that was it. I had almost lost one parent and the thought of losing my best friend, my mom, was terrifying and I couldn’t deal with it. It’s funny because most people thought she couldn’t “cut the cord” but I was the one controlling said cord and if people still don’t understand that and judge us for it, I can’t help them. Once we knew what was causing all of my anxiety I was on the road to recovery.
It was still tough though. I was miserable all of the time. I never went out with any of my friends and some even made fun of me for being anti-social. I didn’t want to be that way, I just couldn’t help it. I now realize they weren’t really friends if they thought it was funny that I never hung out with them.
Fast-forward to October of my senior year. I was still having panic attacks but not as bad. I decided after a long time, almost two years, that it was time to go on medicine for my anxiety. I did not want ONE person to know about this. Not even my brother. I was so embarrassed and ashamed that I needed medicine to feel “normal” and how most people felt on their own. However, it worked. It’s probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for myself. I was beginning to hang out with my friends more often, I was able to stay home alone. I even started to sleep by myself. It was a great feeling. And although the medicine helped big time, I still think the work I put into getting better helped as well. I wasn’t sad anymore, I was starting to be happy all of the time. I had even decided I wanted to live at college (something that I never thought I could do and something even my friends apparently thought I couldn’t do). I was feeling great.
Now? Well, I’m still on my medicine three years later. I don’t want to go off of it just yet, I’m finally doing the things I want to do and although I don’t attribute it all to the medicine, it plays a huge part. I get anxious sometimes but it’s very rare and I can’t really remember the last time I had a panic attack. I went to college, I’m now going into my junior year. I made some amazing friends who I’m able to hang out with all of the time without being scared. I’m able to walk the streets of Boston without assuming someone will try to kidnapped me and I’m so happy with my life. I’m doing things I never thought I could do.
So what about the girl who couldn’t leave her moms side? The girl who cried all of the time? The girl who missed out on so many high school experiences and friends? The girl who worried 24/7? The girl who couldn’t step foot outside by herself? Well, she’s completely better. She fought, I fought and I’m proud to say I conquered my biggest struggle.
The whole point of this post is to tell you, to PROVE to you that it does get better. I made it. I fought my strongest demons and sent them away. If I can do it, anyone can do it. Not many people believed in me, most thought I would be the same scared little girl forever. I’m not. I’m a better version of myself and although I’m always trying to improve, I’m pretty happy with the way I’ve turned out.
This is a message to anyone struggling with anxiety or depression. It will get better and if you need to talk to someone, do it. You could talk to a guidance councilor, a friend, a family member, a teacher, a trusted individual, or you could even talk to me. It will get better. I’m living proof.